A Christmas message from Bishop Tarrant

By Bishop John Tarrant

IMG_4130As Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer sat imprisoned by the Nazis in Advent of 1943, he recounted a picture painted by the German artist Albrecht Altdorfer, in 1511, of the Holy Family. Many artists have painted a scene of the Nativity, but Altdorfer had captured the prisoner Bonhoeffer’s memory. Altdorfer painted the scene on wood panel. It is different than what we are usually accustomed to seeing.

In Altdorfer’s painting, the sky is dark; full of clouds. The light of the star penetrates the sky casting a glow on the scene. The shepherds are at a distance in the background, easy to miss. The angels have a watchful eye over what appears to be a house or stable in ruins. The broken and crumbled brick walls look like the results of extreme neglect or maybe even war. In either case, it is the type of lodging in which a refugee family might find themselves.

Just off center, in the foreground, you can see that part of this broken building is occupied by cattle. You have to look to notice Mary and Joseph behind a fallen wall. Joseph holds a candle in one hand protecting its flame from the evening breeze with his other hand. Mary is kneeling on the ground, looking adoringly at the child in front of her. All the while the angels look on.

Bonhoeffer reflects that, perhaps Altdorfer meant to tell us “Christmas can, and should, be celebrated in this way too.” He concludes, “that, in any event, is what he does tell us.” and so from his prison cell, away from those he loved, in the midst of a world that seemed to be coming apart at the seams, Dietrich Bonhoeffer would celebrate Christmas. He would celebrate the best that he could, understanding what it was that he was celebrating, and what it was that was important.

Bonhoeffer’s prison cell and Altdorfer’s painting remind us that God has come into the world that is. A world that has mass shootings,wars, house fires, and automobile accidents. A world where cancer still kills and children die of malnutrition and even a world with suicide. This is the world that God has entered, not a cleaned-up, white-washed world that makes for great pictures and pretty songs. God has entered into our world in the person of Jesus, just as it is, to guide and empower us to make it a bit more like the world God created it to be.

At Christmas, we are reminded that God in Christ Jesus came and still comes to our world; the bright-lit homes and the broken homes; the happy hearted, and the lonely hearted; those who have faith and those who still seek. He comes and when we open ourselves to his presence he dwells among us.


A Lenten message

From Presiding Bishop Michael Curry:

Message for Lent 2016Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

Clarence Jorden of the Koinonia Movement many years ago wrote this:
Jesus founded the most revolutionary movement in human history, a movement built on the unconditional love of God for the world, and the mandate to those who follow to live that love.

The season of Lent is upon us. It is a season of making a renewed commitment to participate and be a part of the movement of Jesus in this world. You can see some of that in the Gospel lesson for the first Sunday of Lent where Luke says that after the Baptism of Jesus he went into the wilderness, there to be tempted of Satan.

After the Baptism. Baptism is the sacrament of commitment to the Jesus Movement. It is to be washed, if you will, in the love and the reality of God, and to emerge from that great washing as one whose life is dedicated to living that love in the world.

In this season of Lent, we take some time to focus on what that means for our lives, whether it is as simple as giving up chocolate candy or as profound as taking on a commitment to serve the poor or to serve others in some new way. Whatever it is, let that something be something that helps you participate in the movement of God’s love in this world following in the footsteps of Jesus.

And the truth is, the fact that Jesus was baptized and began that movement in the world and immediately found himself tempted by the devil is an ever-present reminder that this movement is not without struggle. It is not easy. The truth is, this movement is difficult. It’s hard work. It’s work of following Jesus to the cross. And it’s work of following Jesus through the cross to the Resurrection. To new life. And new possibility. That is our calling. That is the work of the movement. To help this world move from what is often the nightmare of the world itself into the dream that God intends.

So I pray that this Lent, as they used to say many years ago, might be the first day of the rest of your life. It might be a new day for this world.

God love you. God bless you. Have a blessed Lent, a glorious Easter, and you keep the faith.

The Most Rev. Michael Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church


You can watch the video here.

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A Christmas Message from our Presiding Bishop

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

To view the video, go to:

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Christmas 2015 message

This is the transcript of his message:

Christmas Message 2015

Hello. Our original plan was for me to tape a Christmas message in front of the United Nations building in New York as a way of sending a message that this Jesus of Nazareth whom we follow came to show us the way to a different world, a world rounded in God’s peace and God’s justice, God’s love and God’s compassion.

I recently had surgery and so we had to change those plans and so I’m here in Raleigh on Capitol Square. Christ Church is here and we’re filming this message here just as a way of giving me a chance to say “Thank you” to all of you who sent cards and prayers in my recent surgery.  I’m doing well and I’m coming back to work.

But I did want to say something to you.  It occurs to me that this Jesus of Nazareth really does make a difference.  And God coming into the world in the person of Jesus matters profoundly for all of us regardless of our religious tradition.

In the park across from the United Nations, the Ralph Bunche Park, the words of the Prophet Isaiah are quoted,

They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks
Nation will not rise against nation
Neither shall they learn war any more

What’s not there is another part of that passage that’s in the second chapter of Isaiah, and it says,

Come, let us go to the mountain of God,
That he may show us His ways and teach us His paths

We who follow Jesus believe that the mountain came to us when God came among us in the person of Jesus to show us the way to live, to show us the way to love, to show us the way to transform this world from the nightmare it often is into the dream that God intends for us all.

So, as the words were spoken on that night when Jesus was born, peace, good will to all people, God bless you, God keep you.  A blessed Advent, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all.

The Most Rev. Michael Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

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Xmas sked 2015

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